Vinecki Golden in Moscow; Lillis Earns First Podium of the Season
Under the lights in downtown Moscow, Russia, Winter Vinecki topped the podium at the FIS Aerials World Cup for her first career podium. Vinecki stomped her new double-full full to score 94.11 points, beating current World Cup leader Australia’s Laura Peel, who came in second, and Canada’s Marion Thenault, who came in third.
Vinecki’s podium has been hard-fought and a long time coming. During summer training in 2017 Vinecki fractured the right side of her face and had to have two titanium plates inserted to recover. Three weeks later she was back to ramping and focused on making Team USA for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. However, injury prevented her from pursuing that qualification process. Vinecki, no stranger to hard work and perseverance, continues to be dedicated to the aerial skiing Olympic Dream. She won Saturday’s event with a trick she only brought to snow during the World Cup Opener in Ruka on Dec. 4. Executing it at a winning level is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to her sport.
"I just can't believe it," said Vinecki. "I am so excited! It’s been a long road coming back from injuries and being so close to podiums so many times. I don’t know how many top sixes I have had and so to finally have that podium moment, let alone that first place is incredible."
"The biggest thing was just getting my double-in and doing a nice one to my feet," Vinecki reflected on how the night came together. "It has always been a bit of a struggle for me getting that last jump in the last run. I did my usual full full for qualies. I did another really nice full full to get me into the top six. I sealed the deal with that double-in. At the end of the night, it was just waiting to see if I was first or second, I'm beyond stoked."
Vinecki has been a professional athlete from a young age, starting out in marathon running and triathlons before finding aerial skiing. She competes in memory of her late father, who passed away from cancer, and seeks to bring awareness to her causes through her athletic endeavors. "A lot of what I've done in my athletic career, whether it be running or skiing, has always been in honor of my dad in some way. To get out on the podium, let alone a win, just increases my platform with more awareness to my causes. It was a super memorable moment out here tonight."
"Winter finally nailed her first podium, she crushed it," said head Aerials Coach Vladimir (Vlad) Lebedev. "Her jump was beautiful, she did amazing, I'm very proud of her."
It was a perfectly clear night with impressive views from the iconic scaffold jump at the 11th edition of the classic Moscow city World Cup. 10 Americans represented the U.S. and six qualified for finals.
The women had a strong showing with Vinecki, Ashley Caldwell, Dani Loeb and Megan Smallhouse all jumping in the round of 12. Loeb finished 11th in her first finals appearance in a two-final World Cup format. Smallhouse placed ninth. Caldwell landed both of her finals jumps under her feet and ended the night in fifth.
After a slow start to the 2020-21 competition season, Chris Lillis proved his skill with his first podium of the season in second place. This is Lillis’ fourth career World Cup podium. Lillis had a strong showing all night, qualifying in third for finals and consistently jumped tall and straight. His last double-full full full earned him a score of 116.74 points, blowing everyone out of the water, except for the night’s winner and current World Cup leader, Russia’s Maxim Burov. Switzerland’s Noe Roth rounded out the men’s podium in third.
Lillis' path to the podium was hard-fought as well. He crashed during training in Yaroslavl, preventing him from competing those events. He credits Peter Toohey for rehabbing him well enough to be competitive this weekend. "It felt great to be on the podium," Lillis said. "This week was a tough week for me because of that crash last week. It was questionable whether I would be able to compete this week. I was already jumping from behind and with fewer numbers, it was probably the least amount of training I've done going into a World Cup. I kind of can't believe it based on the week and a half I've had."
"Chris finally back!" said Vlad. "He had a hard couple of weeks since his crash. I'm excited to see him back on the podium."
Justin Schoenefeld also represented the U.S. in finals. His full double-full full in the first round started him off strong. However, he tripped up in the landing, breaking one of his ski bindings and losing the ski in the process. Luckily, Schoenefeld is an adept skier and was able to ski away to end the night in 10th place. "Justin landed and I don’t know what happened," commented Vlad. "His jump was beautiful. All this week he performed so well. It was a bummer to have that equipment malfunction, but happy that he skied away and is okay."
Kaila Kuhn finished 13th, Megan Nick 22nd, Eric Loughran 13th and Quinn Dehlinger 26th.
"I'm looking forward to getting healthy and juping with a normal amount of training," said Lillis. "I'm happy to have a result I'm proud of. We have a great vibe going on with the team right now. This trip has been challenging but seems like everyone keeps on fighting. We're dealing with a lot of extra challenges with travel but happy to have this crew I'm with."
Aerials heads next to Raubichi, Minsk, for their final international World Cup stop of this leg of the tour, scheduled for Jan. 30.